Thorleif Thorleifsson

Maritime Optima seeks to make hay in modular space

Shipping is in Kristin Omholt-Jensen’s blood, but even she was a bit surprised to return to the industry after a decade-long expedition in the tech sector.

The daughter of a captain and a one-time chartering manager, Omholt-Jensen built, and sold, software for boating and construction in her time away. She was searching for her next opportunity when she found that shipping still uses the same software it did before she departed — a revelation less shocking to those without her tech background.

“[I asked], ‘What, are you still using the same legacy software I did when I left the industry 10 years ago?’ Then the guy said to me, ‘You know Kristin, you have become a tech nerd’,” she said during a recent interview with TradeWinds.

It was a description Omholt-Jensen said her colleagues at Maritime Optima, the maritime software firm she founded in 2018 alongside chief technology officer Pål-Robert Engnæs, would dispute.

But still, under her leadership as CEO, the company has amassed 100,000 users since it first launched its digital tools in 2021.

Maritime Optima’s ShipIntel platform is comparable to Kpler or Sea/, in that it uses AIS data and proprietary systems to help shipping companies gather key information, such as where ships are, where they are going and where they may have been.

The company’s approach differs with its low up-front cost and its a la carte menu of modules developed to suit users’ needs.

Modules include a voyage calculator, a position list and advanced sea routing.

Omholt-Jensen said brokers are fans of the position list module, while insurers and lenders use tracking for compliance and due diligence purposes. Owners like the voyage calculator, which can crunch numbers for individual or sequential voyages.

At €10 per month to €25 per month ($11 to $28), she said it is low enough that even the smallest companies can get on board.

Further, Maritime Optima takes feedback from customers to scale up its existing modules or develop new ones.

“I would say that our benefit is actually to be able to distribute high-quality modularised software to all companies in the shipping industry,” she said. “I think you can get a lot of similar features in other software, but it’s not flexible, it’s not modular, but you have to pay much, much more for it.”

Big names buy in

The company has attracted an impressive roster of investors, including Exmar executive director Jens Ismar, 2020 Bulkers chief executive Herman Billung and Awilco LNG chief executive Jon Skule Storheill.

Storheill, who also sits on the board of directors, said he has known Omholt-Jensen since the early 1990s and that her subsequent success in building companies outside shipping only solidified his high opinion of her.

"The reason for investing: the founders, their proven track record, knowledge of the shipping industry and its need for digitalisation,” he said. “And maybe most importantly the ability to build a team to make it all happen.”

Maritime Optima said it is on track to breakeven by the end of 2024, or early 2025, and hopes it can be a player in the acquisition activity happening in the maritime tech space, following Kpler’s purchase of MarineTraffic and FleetMon earlier this year and Sea/’s move for Polish maritime technology company Setapp last November.

Another long-term goal is to open the platform to third-party developers to build their own modules for deployment on the Maritime Optima platform.

But first, the company needs stronger control on high-quality data, Omholt-Jensen said.

She said it was something frequently inquired about.

“We make user-friendly, easy-to-use software, we make it very affordable, then everyone can afford to start using it,” she said. “And everyone can take part in the next phase.“

This article was posted in TradeWinds: In her blood: Maritime Optima’s Kristin Omholt-Jensen seeks to make hay in modular space

Written by Matt Coyne

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